FOO FIGHTERS, "IN YOUR HONOR" (RCA) * 1/2
Dave Grohl has said that the fifth release from his post-Nirvana vanity
project and hobby band mushroomed into a double album -- with one 10-song
electric rock disc, one 10-song acoustic disc, and a 20-minute Dual Disc
video about the creation of an epic he compares to Led Zeppelin's "Physical
Graffiti" and Husker Du's "Zen Arcade" -- when he realized that a single CD
couldn't portray the group's depth and musical complexity.
In fact, one verse and one chorus of almost any Foo Fighters song is all
that have ever been necessary to grasp the entirety of this band's musical
vision. Grohl is capable of crafting effective melodies, but his biggest
problems are that he drives them into the ground through stultifying
repetition, and he has nothing to say lyrically. His "Moon in June" rhymes
have always sounded like last-minute improvisations at the mike.
Forget about "Physical Graffiti" or "Zen Arcade"; the rock half of "In
Your Honor" pales in comparison to the multi-textured efforts of "In Utero"
by his old band, and the acoustic disc is more James Taylor wannabe than
"Nirvana Unplugged in New York." And guests such as Norah Jones, Led
Zeppelin's John Paul Jones and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age do
little to elevate the proceedings.
Early in their career, Foo Fighters seemed like a gift: Sure, its
infectious rock songs were simplistic, unoriginal and dumb, but Kurt Cobain
was gone, Dave's ditties rocked hard enough and sounded good on the radio,
and he had a lot more right to craft cardboard grunge anthems than, say,
Bush. But the band has overstayed its welcome. It's time for Grohl to retire
this group and concentrate on his celebrity drumming cameos with the likes
of Probot and Queens of the Stone Age.
BRIAN ENO, "ANOTHER DAY ON EARTH" (OPAL/RYKODISC) ***
Rock legend, producer extraordinaire (U2, Talking Heads, David Bowie),
Coldplay hero (he guests on "Low" from its new album "X&Y") and godfather of
ambient music Brian Eno hasn't made an album of primarily vocal material
since his brilliant 1990 collaboration with John Cale on "Wrong Way Up."
But the 57-year-old intellectual maintains that he never abandoned
singing -- he enjoys crooning Bowie ditties in the shower. And with the
technology of digital keyboards having progressed to the point where someone
can hit one key and call themselves an ambient artist, he's realized that
the bigger challenge today is crafting good, old-fashioned pop songs.
These 11 tunes don't break new ground for Eno, with washes of ambient
sound augmenting catchy but minimalist sequenced melody lines and his
gentle, soothing vocals (there's little hint of the rock frenzy of '70s
classics such as "Needles in the Camel's Eye" and "King's Lead Hat"). Tracks
such as "Going Unconscious" and "Caught Between" cross the line from lulling
to snooze-inducing, but others such as the opening "This" and the
violin-adorned "How Many Worlds" show that he remains a master of crafting
enigmatic soundscapes and hypnotizing drones that make you want to sing
THE BLACK EYED PEAS, "MONKEY BUSINESS" (A&M) *** 1/2
From a sort of low-rent version of the genre-hopping Roots -- minus the
amazing musical virtuosity and sharp political edge -- the Los Angeles
hip-hop/funk/R&B/worldbeat band the Black Eyed Peas morphed into a more
potent hybrid pop group with the breakthrough success of their last album,
2003's "Elephunk," and a fruitful association with Justin Timberlake, who
returns the favor here with a guest slot on "My Style." On "Monkey
Business," they assure themselves a place beside the Neptunes as the
catchiest and best "hip-pop" band today, and they deliver one of the best
party discs of the summer.
The quartet found its secret weapon midway through their last album, when
they linked up with sultry female frontwoman Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson,
formerly of the girl group Wild Orchid. Celebrity cameos abound -- in
addition to Timberlake, James Brown, Q-Tip, Jack Johnson and Sting also drop
by -- but Fergie steals the show, and she gives us an instant classic with
"My Humps," a good-humored homage to womanly curves that seems like the
long-awaited feminine response to "Baby Got Back" from Sir Mix-A-Lot during
the last golden age of bubblegum rap.
The Black Eyed Peas display plenty of hubris in the CD jacket, spending
several pages listing their first-class requirements for air travel,
backstage dining, hotel accommodations and such, while offering a definition
of "Monkey Business" that excoriates anyone who'd view their music as
"product." But the group sarcastically mocks the "bling-bling" lifestyle in
"Gone Going." Having fun is the order of the day throughout these 15
effervescent and positively giddy jams, and the album leaves the impression
of a hard-working bunch of veterans who have finally arrived -- enjoying the
ride and laughing at themselves all the way.